Overcoming childhood depression and suicidal thoughts

Suicide is one of the most devastating occurrences a family can experience. For youths ages 10 to 14, suicide is the second leading cause of death in the U.S.

There were more than twice as many suicides in the United States than homicides in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide is one of the most devastating occurrences a family can experience, and it is happening in younger children. In youths ages 10 to 14, suicide is the second-leading cause of death in the United States, and among the most preventable.

The CDC also reports 17.2 percent of high school students seriously considered suicide within the last year, according to an annual survey. Nearly 14% had made a plan to end his or her life. These alarming statistics deserve attention from parents and professionals, who should know the warning signs and some tools to address them.

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“It’s not always easy for parents to distinguish between normal teenage angst, ‘hormones’ and clinical depression, particularly if a child has a hard time expressing feelings to others,” said Bryan D. Carter, Ph.D., child and adolescent psychologist with UofL Physicians – Bingham Clinic and director of the pediatric consultation-liaison service at Norton Children’s Hospital. “If you are concerned about your child, the most important thing you can do is listen carefully and openly, ask questions and avoid overreacting or being judgmental.”

Dr. Carter, a professor of child and adolescent psychology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, also advises parents to be direct. Ask if your child has thought about suicide or a suicide plan. If the child says that it would be better if he or she were not alive, that others would be better off without him or her, or that the child wants to end his or her life, always take it seriously. Have your child evaluated by a qualified child/adolescent mental health specialist.


Suicide is preventable. To speak with a professional, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).

If you have an emergency situation or crisis, call 911 or visit the closest emergency department.